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The Tiger's Nest in Bhutan. Photo by Chelsea Ferrel.

The Village of Weaving

The prayer wheel and wool spindle both turn clockwise. After being introduced to our host families, Delaney and I sit on the neighbor’s lawn joined by a few dogs and a cow. Our homestay mother is cleaning and pressing tufts of sheep’s wool with her sister across from us.

In my left hand, I grasp the cream-colored ball which contains a crumpled piece of paper in its center. My right hand guides the thin yet durable string from a 4-sided spindle contraption. The base of this primitive machine is an aged tree trunk with bamboo sticking straight up. There are four horizontal masts connected by string which spin like a windmill when we pull the fabric into our hands.

It takes about 2 and a half hours for Delaney and I to finish wrapping the first ball. Our mother then plops another bundle of thread onto the contraption. This time the wool is a deep orange, naturally dyed from turmeric. We continue spinning and the homestay sisters lay more wool out onto a woven mat to dry.

Back in our home, one large room holds a kitchen, living room and an aged loom by the window. On this loom are the beginnings of a black and white gho, a traditional male dress of Bhutan. Seeing a product like that and thinking back to its humble start on a sheep’s back is impressive to say the least.

Turning the new material into a garment is a roughly six step process consisting of gathering material, washing, drying, pulling it into string, bundling it up and finally weaving the wool. Aside form how complicated it may seem, life in the village is very simple. That’s what goes through my head as I continue to turn the wool spindle clockwise.